Celebrating 25 years of Goodwood FOS with autonomous cars!

2018-07 July 13 Roborace Goodwood FoS-Run-02_hr

Pictured above Roborace which became the first ever autonomous vehicle to complete the Goodwood Hill Climb

This year the Goodwood Festival of Speed (FOS) celebrated its Silver Anniversary. During this time it has firmly established itself as the UK’s premier motor show, beating off competition from the British International Motor Show held at various venues in its long history from 1903 to 2008.

It’s not difficult to see the appeal either. Rather than just viewing cars in a sterile exhibition hall, like Birmingham’s NEC (where I spent many a happy year with my Dad back in the 1970s), you actually get to see, even sit inside, a lot of the cars in the open in a massive setting.

Great if it’s lovely and sunny like it was last weekend, not so good perhaps in the pouring rain which we normally experience in the final week of Wimbledon!

So big a setting is Goodwood in fact that it takes you several hours to cover the various areas on foot (and a fair amount of time to get in the venue too if you are driving which most people are).

Think of it as the Glastonbury for car buffs with various fields dedicated to different types of cars – much like different musical genres or bands. Some people even camp all weekend, as with a music festival, because there really is such a lot to look at.

Best of all you can see many of the cars racing throughout the day up the famous Goodwood Hill Climb – a stretch of race track measuring 1.86Km (1.16 miles) taking you past the beautiful Goodwood House, the seat of the Duke of Richmond.

As well as thousands of classic cars, race cars, motorbikes and even some planes and helicopters, all the major car manufacturers have vast stands at Goodwood (I was at this year’s show as a guest of Ford). This included Tesla which was showing off its latest, ‘affordable’ electric Model 3 car which should be available next year for a price of around £35,000.

There’s also a section at Goodwood called the Future Lab where you can see future developments in travel. Here I got to play with a very shiny lunar module from Japan-based iSpace which is hoping to become the first private company to launch a module to investigate the surface of the moon in 2020.

IMG_7399.JPG

Pictured with the latest and very powerful Ford Mustang which I got to drive around during the Goodwood Festival of Speed, courtesy of Ford.

I also got to see the latest delivery drones used by companies such as DHL to take parcels to remote areas which are difficult to access by road (ie. the Swiss Alps) as well as a completely autonomous race car called Roborace (pictured at the top of the page and below).

Indeed at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed Roborace made history by becoming the very first car to achieve the Goodwood Hill Climb without a driver (not even a midget one hidden inside as someone suggested).

Roborace.png
Designed by Daniel Simon, the automotive futurist best known for his work in Hollywood films such as Oblivion and Tron, the extremely low-slung vehicle (it’s amazing how low you can make it when you don’t need a human) expertly navigated flint walls and bales of hay on the Goodwood estate using a variety of sensors on Friday 13th of all days!

Roborace’s time wasn’t too shoddy either, averaging a little over 60 miles per hour to complete the testing course in around 1 minute 30 seconds (OK it’s a little off the record of 41.6 seconds set by a racing driver, but it’s still not bad).

Unfortunately the same couldn’t be said for the semi-autonomous Ford Mustang with humans inside. Developed by Siemens in conjunction with engineers from Cranfield University, it did eventually make it to the top of the hill but only in a time of over 4 minutes and only after an altercation with several bales of hay – see pic below.

autonomous-1965-ford-mustang-at-goodwood

While the future of cars on the road may well be autonomous it seems we’ve got a few more years of enjoying car shows like the Goodwood Festival of Speed, complete with fully functioning human drivers on the road, first!

Stunning Portugal scenery in the new Audi A6

Screen Shot 2018-05-25 at 11.34.38

Just got back from a great trip with Audi taking their latest A6 for a spin around the mountain roads of the Douro Valley near Porto.

I’m going to write a full review next week, but suffice to say for now it’s a great car – although probably one for the corporate executive who is more likely to be at home on the motorway than on mountainous country roads!

For a start it’s quite a big beast of a motor, plenty of room inside and quite wide. However, it handles very well and comes with plenty of power (3 litre engine as standard though a smaller 2 litre is available).

I liked it primarily because of the onboard tech which is getting more and more advanced. There’s touch screen control with haptic response of course (so you can feel the movement of the buttons) as well as voice control.

Press the talk button on the steering wheel and ask for a pizza restaurant and it will tell you where the nearest one is. Say you are feeling cold and it will even turn the heating up automatically for you in the cabin.

There are also a whole host of great assist features for driving including 360 degree cameras which really help with parking and assisted cruise control which will keep you a safe distance from the vehicle in front.

It really is quite a clever car although all of this intelligence doesn’t come cheap so you better get saving!

You can read the full review on Shiny Shiny here.

sdr

Fellow journalists hard at work

Coworth Park: Luxurious surroundings for a luxury DS car launch

IMG_6675.jpg
I recently went to the very lovely Coworth Park near Ascot, on the borders of Berkshire and Surrey. It’s a strange part of the world in some ways, a beautiful bit of countryside nestled between some not so beautiful parts of the world – I’m looking at you Bracknell and Slough!

Like a lot of country houses that have been converted into hotels, Coworth Park is predictably stunning. But what I thought was amazing was the attention to detail, from the sweeping wooden staircase to the interior control lighting in each of the bedrooms and a free standing copper bath in the bathroom.

Then of course there’s the spa which is quite simply out of this world – especially the large and beautifully lit pool which you can see pictured above.

I was there with a company called DS Automobiles who I must admit I knew very little about before going on the trip. But basically it’s a luxury car brand from France named after the iconic Citroen DS, first launched in the 1950s.

IMG_20180131_114531.jpgAnd although it’s difficult to get as excited by the design of the latest DS car, the DS 7 Crossback SUV (pictured above in the grounds on a rainy Wednesday), there’s no denying it’s a luxurious vehicle inside.

Quite simply it’s stuffed to the gills with tech including 14 Focal loudspeakers and a load of semi-autonomous driving and safety features including Night Vision mode (handy if you don’t want to run over deer on the country roads).

What I particularly liked though were the car’s massage seats which were very comfortable indeed – perhaps a little too comfortable for driving – and the detailing of the interior upholstery.

Like Coworth Park itself, there’s certainly no shortage of luxury with this latest DS car – a lot more Ascot than Slough.

You can read my full review here on my tech website, Tech Digest: https://www.techdigest.tv/2018/02/review-ds-7-crossback.html

The MG GS – an MG but not as we know and love it

IMG_6156.JPG
For the last 10 days or so I’ve been riding around in this SUV. Which means I’ve been able, quite literally, to look down on other road users, and generally drive around like I own the place.

Actually it’s not been too bad. I’ve quite enjoyed the elevated driving position, although when it comes to parking I’ve been worried that I’m going to crush the vehicle behind me – even with a rearview camera and screen which I don’t quite trust.

What I can’t quite get over though is that this big beast is actually an MG. Yes the same manufacturer which brought us the MGB GT – a classic car which I owned in the 1990s and loved on the odd occasion when it actually started – is responsible for something which is so completely and utterly different. The absolute opposite in fact.

The reason for this, of course, is that MG is no longer Morris Garages but owned by SAIC, China’s largest vehicle manufacturer. As a result, the new owner is in the process of rolling out several new models which seem to have very little in common with the original MG ethos.

Maybe that’s a good thing? Maybe people don’t care about funky looking sports cars anymore and just want practical SUVs to put their kids, their shopping and their dogs in? Especially if they have a reasonable price tag attached – this SUV costs from a little over £15K on the road though the model I tested was nearer £20K.

But it seems a shame to buy a brand like MG and not to design something a little more, well, in keeping with the heritage. It’s OK but there’s really very little to distinguish it from a Nissan Qashqai or KIA Sportage and that to me seems a bit of a missed opportunity.

IMG_6167.JPG
In short it handles well, has bags of features and a decent leather trim. But it lacks a little in power, has quite a small boot for a big car (see pic above) and doesn’t really get the heart pounding.

Of course it’s early days for the new MG (I haven’t seen a single new MG on the road since I took delivery of this MG S) and, in the words of D:Ream, things can only get better.

Certainly the MG E-motion, the electric supercar concept unveiled at the Shanghai motor show in April (pictured below) looks more like what I would expect a bang up to date MG to look like.

And I can’t wait to get hold of one of these. Bugger practicality and an elevated driving position. Give me a car that makes me feel like I’m 20 again bombing round the streets. But if you could make it a bit more reliable than my MGB GT please I’d be grateful!

Full review to follow on TechDigest.tv later this week.

MGE-motion.jpg

 

Keep ahead of the curve. Daily Telegraph, motoring section (1/7/2017)

digital twin

Thanks to The Daily Telegraph for running my piece on creating a ‘digital twin’ and how manufacturers like Maserati are now using Siemens’ technology to reduce the need for prototypes and to optimise production.

Says Brian Holliday, Siemens Managing Director, Digital Factory: “The digital twin not only enables people to visualise programmes and work together at much lower cost, it means that car manufacturers can make greater progress in designing, simulating and verifying before conducting testing in the real world.”

We’ve come a long way in car production since Henry Ford said way back in 1909 ‘you can have any colour you want as long as it’s black.’

‘Going back to nature’ in Nissan’s X-Trail SUV?!

Nissan X-Trail.JPG

‘Let’s offroad’, said no one in a Nissan X-Trail, ever

Yesterday I ditched my 21st century gadgets and reverted to my inner caveman. I left the comfort of my warm home office and instead found myself learning how to use a type of fungus to light my own fires on an exceptionally cold day in Sussex (I think I’m still thawing out now.)

Only I didn’t. Not really. Basically it was all an elaborate, tongue-in-cheek publicity stunt to link Nissan’s latest 2 litre X-Trail SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) to the concept of Adventure with a capital A. Nevermind, that the biggest adventure this particular 4×4 will face is probably a trip to the admittedly quite steep Marks and Spencer’s car park in north London’s Muswell Hill.

The idea is that this is a vehicle for rugged, bearded, check shirt wearing, adventurer types who love nothing better than foraging for their own food and slinging a bit of roadkill on the back seat for supper. Not (of course) a relatively cheap and cheerful SUV which people will buy for the higher driving position and large amounts of legroom (as well as the fact there is the possibility of a dog-friendly edition for pet owners. See here).

OK I get it. But I must say that really I would much rather sit inside in front of a warm log fire, lit quickly with a Zippo, than rummaging around for bits of twigs and getting my hands dirty in dark bits of fungus that look suspiciously like sheep poo. In the same way as I would much rather make a call on my mobile than tie two bits of string together and put a tin can on either end.

Given the age we live in though, it’s perhaps not surprising to hear that there are even companies that specialise in these ‘back to nature’ excursions, including the one we were with: Hunt, Gather, Cook. A kind of culinary paintball for angst-ridden Londoners.

Founded around seven years ago by a guy who left a chef’s job in the capital and who described himself as a ‘fire enthusiast’ (don’t we call them arsonists), it specialises in taking people into the wilderness where they can learn different animal slaughter techniques. Nice.

Bearded hipster.JPG

For a man who had to hide in the bushes with three quarter length trousers and no socks in virtually sub-zero temperatures, the ‘bearded hipster’ was a surprisingly cheerful chap!

Thankfully as a vegetarian, I was spared having to kill any innocent creatures to satiate any primal needs. Instead, the biggest challenge I faced was finding a ‘bearded hipster’ in a farmer’s field, see picture above, and making a fire so that he could have a much needed soya cappuccino. It’s all in day’s work!

But the day wasn’t just spent larking around the countryside making fires and rescuing pretend, stranded hipsters. As well as genuinely taking the X-Trail off road – albeit on the nursery slopes compared to the black runs intended for more serious SUVs – I also interviewed a guy who is setting off in a modified Nissan Leaf on the 10,0000 mile Mongol Rally with only his wife for company. Now that’s a brave man.

You can read the story about the Mongol Rally here: http://www.techdigest.tv/2017/04/adventurer-chris-ramsey-to-undertake-10000-mile-mongol-rally-in-nissan-leaf-electric-car.html. Full YouTube video to follow.